Madurai: Ramu thaatha's Rs 10 meal for the poor

Ramu Thaatha never compromises on providing quality food to the people.

Madurai: Ramesh (50), a daily wageworker from Usilampatti who earns Rs 200 per day, manages to save a little amount for his family members only because humanitarian S.Ramu sells quality food for a very cheap price at Anna Nagar in Madurai.

“The minimum price of a meal in hotels in this area is Rs 60. But I eat a meal of better quality for Rs 10 in our ‘thaatha’s shop’,” says the farmer who migrated to Madurai in search of a job after his farm well dried up.

In the same table at the hotel, a medical intern from Govt Rajaji Hospital was also found eating. A long queue of people, including medical college students, junior level officials of government offices, police constables and attendants of patients admitted in the hospital, is waiting outside his little eatery called ‘Valli Tiffin Centre’ for their turn to taste his food.

A bowl of rice with sambar, rasam and buttermilk plus two servings of vegetables constitutes a meal at the centre. “I use pooni rice which costs '38 per kg for preparing the meals,” says Ramu. He is 85 years old now and had started selling vada, idli, aapam and tea for 10 paise each when he began the hotel along with his wife Puranathammal way back in 1965. He introduced noon meals for Rs 1.25 in 1970.

Due to inflation, he increased the price to Rs 6 in 1975 and to Rs 10 only in 2014 that too after being compelled to do so by regular customers.

“I do not aim at making a profit, but I have the great satisfaction of serving the poor people. I never collect money from elders, who visit my hotel regularly for food,” he says with pride.

It was the poverty Ram faced in his childhood after he ran away from home at the age of 12 (when his mother died at Villur village near Madurai) that made him realise the pain of going to bed without food. He worked as a waiter in roadside dhabas at Alanganallur and various other parts of TN.


At the age of 17, his visit to a Vallalar temple in Vadalur had a huge impact on his life. “I was inspired by the teachings of Vallalar, particularly on feeding the poor as the highest form of worship,” the octogenarian recalls.

The idea having been planted in his head, Ramu returned to Madurai when relatives got him married to Puranathammal, who was a good cook. When Ramu found his wife managed to prepare food for the entire family with his salary of '1, he decided to start the hotel in 1967 to sell food at cheaper rates to serve poor people.

Puranathammal, who died last year, used to bring beggars, destitute, elders and visually challenged persons from the locality to feed them regularly in the afternoon. “When Puranathammal was on her deathbed, she got me to promise to continue this service till my lifetime,”

Ramu Thaatha never compromises on providing quality food to the people. “I invest my small profit of Rs 1,000 in purchasing grocery items and vegetables. It is the donations I receive from people from across the state that helps me to continue this mission,” he said. With Ramu Thaatha’s hotel getting popular in social media, people from USA have also visited his hotel to taste the food.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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